Is Atwood’s novel ultimately a feminist work of literature, or does it offer a critique of feminism?
In Margeret Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale, women are the main victims in society in the world she has created within the novel. The Republic of Gilead is her depiction of society but in a more exaggerated sense. In this case, men dominate society and women are in complete subjection. This is emphasised through the role of handmaids whose sole purpose is to provide fertile offspring for their commanders. Moreover, the handmaids in this society are also lost within their identity as they are not allowed to use their real names. But instead are given and forced to use names which represent them as the property of their commanders: Ofglen, Ofwarren, Offred.
At the same time, a secondary character of this story we follow, Moira, is known for her more rebellious thinking against the men in this society. With her, a more masculine style and the fact that she is lesbian is something that goes against all Gilead abides by women. However, this gives a sense of hope to Offred for a rebellion against the men in this society. This depiction of Moira and Offred represent feminism as they believe that women should take over/rebel in this society.
I see feminism as the advocacy/fight for equality within both genders: where women are given the same opportunities as men. However, that is not what I think the representation of feminism is like in The Handmaids Tale. I think the novel represents the feminist views in the way in which the handmaids in this society want to take over men. This represents the views of radical feminism as Moira and Offred want to reorder society to have women on top. The complete opposite of a patriarchal society at which The Republic of Gilead is.
Now to answer the question of whether if The Handmaids Tale is a piece of feminist literature or not, yes, I would say that it is. The novel represents an exaggeration of what some women face in society, not just the past but also the present. There are many different places around the world that still believe in these very old and traditional values which have been ruled out in many societies now. Atwood’s representation of women and their role in society within The Republic of Gilead, it shows that women who are oppressed want more as they are just as human as men are. Thus to conclude, it is a piece of feminist literature as it goes dives into the mind of women facing oppression from a patriarchal society. Their build-up of anger, rebellion, and frustration only builds up which also represents the passion at which some women have for the advocacy of feminism.